I sit here with my coffee, beside the computer, waiting for him to come, and hoping I can help. After the brief words we had at lunch yesterday, him all staring down and poking at his food, it's pretty obvious he's hoping for a serious discussion about something tonight, not the usual kind of session we have of roleplaying and computer games.
I ponder over his activities of the last few weeks. Not been out much with the rest of us, then again, he's never really been a very social type. Spending a lot of time on that internet connection of his I think.
I wander off to the bathroom to have a shave and end up, as I quite often do, having a bit of a conversation with myself in the mirror. I find it kinda helps to discuss things with yourself in that manner.
I play through what I know about Martin. He's 24, but just less than a year younger than me. We've known eachother since senior school, having been in most of the same classes together. Went to the same college too, where we ended up again, in the same top-level maths group. I guess we really got close through roleplaying games, Dungeons and Dragons and all that. In fact, that was about the only time I used to see him outside of college since he never went in much for sport or social activities.
I try to ignore the knocking noises that the plumbing makes while I run some more hot water.
An intellectual I guess, nobody would really deny that, but perhaps, if I'm being honest, a bit socially inept. Never had a lot of luck with girls either, not that he's ugly or anything, he just seems to lack confidence I suppose.
In fact now, at 24, working as a computer programmer in the town centre and living alone in a little house right out on the edge of the countryside, I guess he seems like a bit of a loner. Although I couldn't really say that I'd ever have called him lonely. He seems fairly cheerful most of the time, though never exactly the life and soul of the party.
I finish my wash and shave and precariously balance the things back on the edge of sink. Hell, this place is a mess and Susie's only been away at her course for three days, I'm gonna have to clean up a bit before she gets back on friday or she'll go ballistic!
I sit back down at the computer and have another game of Worms while I wait.
I few minutes later I go to answer the doorbell.
"Hiya Mart, come in.", I smile.
"Hi", he murmurs quietly and comes in to sling his coat on the hook.
I lead him into the box room that I jokingly call my "study" and we sit down in the usual places around the small table beside the computer. In the bright light of the room, he looks a bit paler than usual.
Conversation fails to take off for an awkward moment or two, and I end up offering a game of Worms just to break the silence.
"I um...", he starts, "Uh, yeah okay."
I glance sidelong at him as we reshuffle ourselves infront of the screen. It almost seems like he's avoiding my gaze.
We blast away at eachother's little invertebrate soldiers for a little while, not saying much other than the usual mock-angry comments at the loss of a worm until eventually I say, "Uh, you've been seeming a little down recently, is there anything up?"
I notice him look down and fidget a little, "I, uh, yeah, I'm not feeling so great."
Placing the joystick aside I turn myself toward him a little more and prompt him to continue with an inquisitive look.
"Oh... its just... uh...", I'm really starting to wonder what all this is about, he's looking so nervous, what's happened?
He sighs heavily and falls silent for a moment.
"Look mate, something's obviously eating you. What is it? Job? Money?", I let it hang for a second or two.
"Girl?", I suggest slowly.
He lets out a quiet, and almost amused sounding sigh, "Uh, not really."
Making eye-contact with me, just for an instant, he says, "Yes, something is eating me, and its been eating me for a long long time."
"I'm still not dealing with it really", his words are coming slow, deliberate, but clearly with some effort, "but I thought that, if I tell you... come on, you're my best friend and everything. I thought... uh, I wanted to tell you this."
"Uh huh", I listen.
He's sat cross-legged on the chair now, his hands on his brow, looking at the floor and I think, he seems to be trembling a bit.
"Well, I, uh", a long pause, "Have you ever really wondered why I've never had a girl? Like you. Like you and Susie."
My turn to pause before speaking, "Well, I don't know, I guess you just, uh, never got lucky. Or maybe you're just not that confident around the opposite sex."
He seems to be weighing up my response, or his options maybe.
I continue, "You're feeling lonely? Is that it?"
"In a way, yeah, I suppose I am. But I know I'm not alone now, the 'net has ensured that, though I still don't, uh, don't... I can't face what I am alone, I need you to help me."
I've got it, I think. Hell, what a surprise, Martin is gay! I hope he doesn't fancy me or something!
He must have seen some sign of recognition on my face as he glances briefly up at me, "I'm not gay Steve, I know that's what you're thinking."
"I, uh... oh right, well yes, I was kinda considering that.", I stumble, "So, um, why is it that you never had a girl then?"
"Well, I'm not really interested in girls either, I just don't find women attractive.", he's looking very tense now.
"What are you saying? If you're not, uh, 'straight', and you're not gay, then...?", I let the question ask itself.
He cringes, clearly it's a question he both needed and dreaded.
"I'm zoo.", he says, simply, quietly, giving me a brief glance.
"Zoo? What do you mean by that? What's 'zoo'?"
"I'm a zoophile.", he says, without looking up again.
"What does that mean?", this is starting to freaking me out, what the hell is he going on about? Sat there, giving me this weirdness, and shaking like a leaf, so pale, he looks... I don't know, he looks pretty screwed up.
"Think about it.", he says, "Zoo, phile, animal, love."
He glances up at me again, traces of tears in his eyes, "I'm an animallover", he says, stressing the last word heavily.
He can't mean what I think he means, can he? No, he can't mean that. That's ridiculous. I look blankly at him.
Hugging himself like a madman, squished up there on the chair, he stares up into the corner of the room intensely and says, with a lot more force, "I...fuck horses Steve. I fuck horses. Okay? Zoo, phile, animal, love, horse, me... I... I love horses."
He starts to sob, clinging onto himself as though he might just shatter into peices. I see his face tense, his jaw clamped together with an intense effort to retain control of himself.
I sit there in silence, for a minute or more, a minute that seems to stretch out into an empty gulf between us. I'm shocked. What the hell am I supposed to say tothat? The guy is deranged!
Finally, he looks up at me, a pleading expression in his eyes.
"I'm not the only one Steve.", he says quietly, brushing the tears from his face, "There are loads of us, all over the world, I've met them on the 'net. I'vealways been this way, I'm only just starting to face it. Hell, even back at college I was going out across the fields at night and... well..."
"I just love horses, nothing in my life meansanything compared to them... nothing. When I'm with a mare, I just feel so, oh,complete... so happy. I'd give anything to actuallybe a horse, a stallion.", staring off into space he continues, "I've always fantasised, and dreamed, about horses, never humans.
"Horses are so... oh, I don't know, justeverything", he pauses to sniff and brush aside more tears, "I can't explain it, it's just me, and I've hated myself so much for it. Nearly killed myself over it several times."
He starts to crack again, his lower lip trembling, "Oh god, it just hurts so much! I can'tbe what I want to be. I just have to lie, and hide, and sneak about in the dark, climbing over fences and fumbling in the dark... I'm just so... I'm just so alone."
The floodgates open and now he really cries, openly, tragically, hopelessly.
I slowly get up from the chair, move over and put my hands on his shoulders. I just can't bring myself to hug him. I stand over him, feeling like an older brother, or maybe even a father to him as he quakes with wracking tears.
Eventually he quietens a little.
"Martin", I say. He looks up at me from under his ragged hair.
"Martin, look", I continue, in a calm a tone as I can muster, "You're, well, frankly you're sick. You're a good friend and I can't stand to see you hurting like this but you'vegotta face it... doing it with animals is just not natural... itswrong and you need help."
His jaw is dropping as he stares up at me through watery eyes, but I know someonehas to say this to him.
"I know you love horses, and that's okay, but you know, look, you know you just can't go andscrew one, it just isn't right. It's... it's... well anyway, you needhelp Martin. You've got a very serious problem here."
I'm trying to sound and look as caring as I can but I can see him starting to crumble again, just staring up at me. Hell, he almost looks shocked by what I'm saying! Isn't it glaringly obvious to him? Doesn't he realise just how disturbed he is?
No... I guess not. Oh hell, I'm really starting to feel out of my depth here because I'm realising that this boy isreally fucked-up, I mean, like mad or something, insane. I gotta try to keep him calm and make him see that he needs to becured of this dementia.
"I'm gonna call a doctor Martin.", I say.
His eyes go wide with fear, "NO!", he gasps, "No! Steve! Please! They'll lock me up! Please!", tears flow freely down his face again.
I tell him, "Don't be silly, they won't lock you up, they'lltalk to you,help you and, come on Mart, youneed help with this and I don't mind admitting, well, probably it should be a professional 'cos I just... I really don't know what to say."
Of course, theywill lock him up, well, keep him in hospital anyway, but this is ridiculous, the guy needs serious treatment doesn't he? Having sex with animals is just plainwrong. That's it, it's just... just... weird!
Gasping through his tears, he pushes my hand off of his shoulder and, staggering off the chair, says, "I gotta throw up."
"'kay.", I say, ushering him on.
What the hell do I do now? I'm stood here thinking, "Who do I call? The hospital? The paramedics? How the hell should I know!?"
I quietly duck into the lounge to have a look in the yellow pages or something and see if maybe there's some number for an, uh, 'institution' or something. I don't know, maybe I'll just call an ambulance.
I hear him coughing into the toilet upstairs.
A rapid rustle through the phonebook doesn't give me any further clue as to who I should call so I nip out into the kitchen to phone for an ambulance.
I glance up at the ceiling as I dial the number, hearing a clatter from the bathroom above that sounds like all the crap I left lying on the sink getting knocked over.
"Hi, um, ambulance please.", I reply to the operator on the other end of the phone. I give my address and number.
I hear the pipes knocking again, the hot water must be running upstairs, I guess he's cleaning up or something.
"The situation? Um, its hard to explain.", I tell the voice at the other end of the line, "I've got a friend of mine here and I think he really needs like, uh, a psychiatrist or something."
"No this is not a joke. This guy is really, um, well, pretty disturbed and I don't know who to call about it, I... what? Call the hospital? Okay, thanks."
As I put down the receiver and start to look up the number I call upstairs to him, "Mart?"
No response, guess he can't hear me in the bathroom.
It takes me a few minutes to get through to the hospital and get put through to the right person. I try to explain the situation as best and as quickly as I am able. They tell me I should bring him in, giving me the name of a particular doc to ask for at reception.
"Okay thanks, we'll be there in about twenty or thirty minutes.", I put down the phone and start to head upstairs.
Outside the bathroom, I can hear the water still running, "Mart?"
No response, "Mart? You okay?"
I start to worry a bit. Didn't he say that he'd often felt suicidal about, uh, it?
"Mart? You alright?", I try the door... it's locked.
I bang on it, calling out louder, "Mart? Mart? Open up!"
Oh shit, oh shit no, he couldn't have done anything stupid could he?
I heave against the door, unsuccessfully.
Banging loudly I yell, "Mart! Open the goddamn door!"
Still no response.
Oh shit, here we go. I shoulder the door busting open the flimsy bolt without much difficulty and I see him there, collapsed below the sink.
Water is starting to spill over the sink onto him as he lies crumpled between the sink and the toilet, blood ebbing slowly now into the pool that surrounds his slashed wrists... my razor lying beside him.